UK Judge Rules Craig Wright Is Not Bitcoin’s ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’

A self-proclaimed bitcoin inventor is not ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, according to a ruling this week by a High Court judge in the UK.

Reuters reported that after a five week trial, London’s High Court judge, Mr Justice Mellor said on Thursday that Australian computer scientist Craig Wright was not Satoshi, and that he would give his full reasons for his decision at a later date.

The court case in London began on 5 February 2024 after the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) took Dr Wright to court to stop him suing bitcoin developers.

This was because since May 2019, Craig Wright has been using English libel law to sue people who denied he was the inventor of bitcoin, and who called him a fraud. The alliance asked for a ruling that Dr Wright was not Satoshi.

Satoshi Nakamoto

COPA – whose members include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payments firm Block, previously said it had brought the lawsuit to preserve the open-source nature of bitcoin.

After Mellor announced his decision on Thursday, Dorsey posted a quote from the judge and a single letter: “W”.

Australian IT researcher, businessman, and computer scientist Craig Wright had claimed in a blog post in May 2016, that he was Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonym used by the person (or persons) who developed bitcoin.

Nakamoto carried out the initial research underlying bitcoin and apparently ended his involvement in the digital currency in 2011.

Craig Wright in his blog post in 2016 provided a cryptographic signature that’s among those known to have been used by Nakamoto.

Wright has previously told the BBC that he created bitcoin. “I was the main part of it, other people helped me,” Wright told the BBC. “Some people will believe, Some people won’t, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.”

Gavin Andresen, whom Nakamoto chose to succeed him as chief scientist of the bitcoin Foundation, supported Wright’s claim.

He said his conclusion was based on a visit to London, where Wright lives, and “a careful cryptographic verification of messages signed with keys that only Satoshi should possess”.

Civil trial

In December 2021 Craig Wright said he had won a Miami civil case that pitted him against the family of his late business partner and computer forensics expert, David Kleiman.

That victory saved Dr Wright from paying his former business partner tens of billions of dollars in the cryptocurrency, namely half of the 1.1 million bitcoin mined and held by Satoshi, a cache currently worth around $70 billion.

However that case awarded Kleiman’s estate $100 million in damages, after Kleiman’s estate had sought upwards of $25 billion at trial.

The estate of David Kleiman also claimed rights to some of the intellectual property behind early blockchain technology.

Controversial claim

Many in the crypto community were (and continue to be) sceptical of Wright’s claim, in part because he has not moved any of the early bitcoin presumed to have been mined by Satoshi.

COPA has accused Wright of repeatedly forging documents to substantiate his claim, including during the trial itself, which Wright denied when he gave evidence, Reuters reported.

Its lawyer, Jonathan Hough, reportedly said at the start of the trial in February that Wright’s claim was “a brazen lie, an elaborate false narrative supported by forgery on an industrial scale.”

COPA’s Hough reportedly said that “there are elements of Dr Wright’s conduct that stray into farce”, citing his alleged use of ChatGPT to produce forgeries.

But he added: “Dr Wright’s conduct is also deadly serious. On the basis of his dishonest claim to be Satoshi, he has pursued claims he puts at hundreds of billions of dollars, including against numerous private individuals.”

Wright’s lawyers, however, argued in court filings that he had produced “clear evidence demonstrating his authorship of the white paper and creation of bitcoin.”

Bitcoin history

The arrival of bitcoin has an interesting backstory.

In 2008, just as the world was being engulfed in a financial crisis of epic portions, Satoshi Nakamoto published a nine-page white paper detailing a vision for bitcoin – a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that would function outside the reach of governments.

A few months after that, Nakamoto released software that allowed users to mine for the cryptocurrency.

The first bitcoin (BTC) was mined on 3 January 2009, by “Satoshi Nakamoto,” which is now recognised as the pseudonym of the person or group of people who created bitcoin.

Nakamoto remained on the scene until 2011, at which point he abruptly left the project after emailing a fellow developer to say that they had “moved on to other things.”

Before vanishing, the enigmatic creator is believed to have mined as many as 1.1 million bitcoin.

Previous investigations have named a number of possible identities for Nakamoto, including a Californian man whose name is in fact Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, and who later claimed never to have heard of the currency before the report that linked him to it.

Some involved with bitcoin argued Satoshi’s identity no longer matters to bitcoin, which is based on an open source protocol that can’t be controlled by any single individual or organisation.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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